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New child-care plan would ease access to subsidized daycare

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Author: 
Woods, Michael
Publication Date: 
17 Feb 2014

 

EXCERPTS:

OTTAWA - A new child-care plan that's supposed to ensure the most vulnerable children have access to subsidized daycare will come before a city council committee this week.

The proposed Child Care Service Plan would overhaul how the city subsidizes daycare for young children and change the way parents qualify for those subsidies.

The biggest change is the proposal to attach daycare subsidies to children as opposed to attaching them to daycare centres.

Currently, when a subsidized daycare spot opens up, parents apply to individual child-care operators for the space. The application is sent to the city, who decides whether their child is eligible or not. In other words, parents only find out whether they're eligible for a subsidized spot after one opens up.

Under the new system, the city would subsidize the children instead. Parents would receive timely information about whether they qualify, before they are placed on the waitlist. When a subsidized space becomes available, they will be able to choose where their child receives care. The aim is to make that change by 2017.

"The ultimate vision is once the family applies for subsidy, they know whether or not they're eligible, they find a space and they use their subsidy towards that space - it doesn't matter where it is," said Kelly Paolozzi, executive director of the Parent Resource Centre.

Paolozzi was part of a group that has advised the city on the plan during the past year.

"For us, the big things are that the principles are around parental choice, that it's in the best interest of the child and that we're providing a more simplified process for families."

Capacity will still be a problem. The city can currently subsidize 6,500 child-care spaces. Another 5,112 are on a waiting list for subsidized daycare.

And the city warns that there is the potential for the closure of some child-care centres, partly because some of them are now competing with school boards for before and after-school care. Provincial funding is also a factor; the city covers 20 per cent of the cost of child-care subsidies, which last year totalled $84 million.

The first step in this shift is creating a new waitlist management system, to be launched by September, which will ask parents for more detailed information.

The city says the new system will allow to know exactly how many families are eligible for fee subsidies and waiting for a daycare space.

"In the current administration of child-care fee subsidies, the subsidy does not necessarily go to families and children who are most in need," the city report says.

Additionally, "parents may wait several months or years to access a subsidized space," the report says. "The current waitlist management system is not meeting the requirements of parents because they have no indication of when they might expect to receive a subsidized child-care space."

Kim Hiscott, executive director of Andrew Fleck Child Care Services, one of the city's biggest child-care agencies, said the current system doesn't ensure the parent who receives the subsidy is the most vulnerable or has the highest need. Hiscott was also part of the stakeholder group helping prepare the plan.

And Paolozzi added that under the current system, "there's not that clear sense of who's eligible for subsidy or not because you don't go through that process until you've found an open subsidized space," she said. "It's a bit harder to understand what the true need is."

The city said in the report it will strive to geographically distribute the fee subsidies based on the percentage of low-income children in each neighbourhood.

The city's community and protective services committee will examine the plan at their meeting on Thursday.

-reprinted from the Ottawa Citizen

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Entered Date: 
18 Feb 2014
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